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The legacy of two Bok stalwarts

SPOTLIGHT: Two Springbok stalwarts, Ruan Pienaar and Willem Alberts, recently announced their retirement from the game, having amassed a total of more than 800 first-class matches between them for teams in South Africa and Europe, as well as in the green and gold.


Pienaar retired after the Cheetahs’ final SA Cup game as South Africa’s player with the most first-class games behind his name – 472 – just over 20 years since he made his first-class debut for the Free Staters in a friendly against Western Province. He scored 2635 points in this time.

The versatile Pienaar, a member of the World Cup-winning squad in 2007 who matriculated from Grey College in Bloemfontein before joining Shimlas, played 88 Tests and seven non-Tests for the Boks between 2006 and 2015, scoring 135 Test points in the green and told. Ruan and his father, Gysie, is one of 13 sets of fathers and sons who played Tests for the Boks.

He also played 88 matches for the Cheetahs (2004, 2019-2024), 106 games for the Sharks (between 2005 and 2021) – winning the Currie Cup with both teams – as well as 141 games for Ulster in Ireland (2010-2017) and 28 games for Montpellier in France (2017-2019). He also played one game for the South African XV (2006) and 10 times for the SA U21s (2004-2005).

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Alberts, whose career came to an end after the Lions were knocked out of the URC play-off race on Saturday, played 43 Tests and two non-Tests for the Springboks (2010-2016), scoring 35 points including a try on debut against Wales, and 124 for the Lions (in various competitions between 2005 and 2024).


The former pupil of Hoërskool Monument in Krugersdorp who represented UP-Tuks, also played 94 games for the Sharks (2013-2015) – with whom he won the Currie Cup twice – and 79 games for Stade Francais in France (2015-2019). He scored 192 points in his 342 first-class games.

SARU President Mark Alexander led the tributes for the retiring duo, who played together for the Boks and the Sharks, and faced each other numerous times as well, both in South Africa and Europe.

“Ruan and Willem are two totally different players with different personalities, but they were exactly the same in the way in which they shared a love for rugby and poured many years of blood, sweat and tears into the teams they served,” said Alexander.

“Combined, they played first-class rugby for 39 years, and to be able to carry on playing like they have done, with both now 40 years old, says a lot about their drive, passion and love for the game.


“Both Ruan and Willem were wonderful servants of the Springboks and although they endured many ups and downs in the green and gold, they will forever be remembered as two stalwarts of our game.

“What’s more, both Ruan and Willem chose to return to South Africa after successful club stints in Europe. They could have easily hung up their boots, but they joined the unions where they grew up and immediately started to plough back into the game, mentoring younger players and providing leadership to the next generation.

“I salute them for their service to South Africa, for being great ambassadors and for returning to our lovely country towards the end of their careers to plough back – it says a lot about their character and the men they are. Thank you, Ruan and Willem.”




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